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  • Writer's pictureJenesse Vaughan

When our calf had scours

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When our cow Violet had a stillborn calf, (catch that video here) we thought that her loosing the calf was the hardest part of the story.

While yes, this was devastating, we didn’t realize all that can happen when you get a “drop calf”. Below I am going to share with you what was suggested to us, what we ended up doing and what we would do differently if we ever have a drop calf again.

First off; what is a drop calf?

A drop calf is a baby cow (usually a boy or bull calf) from a dairy. Dairy’s typically do not keep the boys since they will not become future milkers. The boys are usually sold around 3 days old after they have gotten colostrum.

Fast forward to us finding a drop calf, grafting the calf on successfully, but then the calf came down with scours.

What are scours?

Scours is diarrhea in calves, it usually is caused by the calf being around viruses, a calf not getting enough colostrum at birth can contribute to this. In our case we believe the calf was getting too much milk too.

The calf we grafted onto Violet was a Holstein calf. Holsteins butter fat content is around 3.5% while jerseys (what Violet is) is around 5%. What does this mean? Jerseys milk is much richer than Holsteins, and you have to make sure the Holstein calf doesn’t drink too much or it can give them scours.

Below is a list of alllllll the things people on our Instagram told me and local dairy farmers:

  • Give a raw egg mixed into bottle

  • Feed them a beer to rest rumen (stomach)

  • Give them peptobismal

  • Drench with ACV

  • Pull them off momma and only bottle feed

  • Starve the good bacteria and just feed water, take away milk

  • Give probiotics

  • Add electrolytes to bottle

  • Give herbal remedies hourly

  • Antibiotics

  • Feed banana

  • Give activated charcoal

  • Make sure the calf is warm

  • Shot of vitamin b

I’m fairly certain I’m forgetting some that were sent my way! But this is a pretty good list!

There are different levels to scours and how severe they become. We thought our calf was just more sleepy, shivering a little because he was cold. Maybe our momma cow wasn’t letting him nurse enough? But the reality was he had scours come on fast and hard. His poop went to watery white and we were warned by a lot of people that calves at this point very easily die.

So what did we do?

  • We did herbs every hour to two hours around the clock. We use herbs from fir meadows

  • We did probiotics

  • We did stomach tubing cause our little calf was too weak

  • We did a calf blanket and heat lamp

  • We did electrolytes (both homemade and store bought)

  • We did a shot of vitamin b

  • We had the vet out and he also got bantamine and a round of antibiotics (this was very hard for us, since we do not give antibiotics on our farm)

  • Separated momma and baby and only put them together twice a day until he was better

  • We did put a raw egg in the bottle

  • Apple cider vinegar in water

We didn’t want Violet (our momma cow) to loose yet another baby she had just accepted and started to bond to. Giving the antibiotics was a very hard decision for us, but ultimately they didn’t know if he would live through the night.

What would we do differently?

We would not give the calf free reign of mommas milk. We would give probiotics immediately upon arrival. We would know any signs of shaking/lethargy could be scours and we would give vitamin b and electrolytes.

Something I read over and over was “if the calf has sunken eyes, he is dehydrated” well what is sunken eyes?? I asked the vet when he was out and he said it’s where you can see a space between the eyelid on the bottom and the eyeball. Another way to check for dehydration is to pull back the skin on the neck of the calf, if it goes right back down, they aren’t dehydrated. If it stays or slowly goes down, then they are in fact dehydrated.

I hope this helps you! And I pray it is not something you have to encounter on your farm!


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